Hyundai Wants to Patent a Folding Electric Car
Because the future wasn’t looking weird enough.
Have three words been so encouraging of the future and fit so well together as, “folding electric microcar?” Hyundai used almost those exact terms when filing an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month for a “new-concept foldable vehicle.” The new part of the concept is that the floor of the one-seat conveyance is split so that the front portion can slide under the rear section to shorten the vehicle’s wheelbase. When the tongue-and-groove routine is complete, Hyundai says four of the tiny runabouts can fit in a space made for a normal car.
The U.S. application follows a filing in South Korea from 2014 for the same contraption. The reason Hyundai specified “new-concept” is that this isn’t the world’s first attempt at a foldable vehicle. In fact, Hyundai’s patent application references some of the flaws in other such ventures with derisive assessments like, “their external appearances are unnatural” when folded. Hyundai’s offering, you see, should it ever come to market, will look perfectly logical in its surroundings—indigenous, even.
This will be achieved by having the hinged roof panel collapse into the rear hatch area, having the bottom-hinged windshield lean down into the cabin, then having the entire rear of the car tip forward to cover everything like a shell. When it’s in this utterly natural state, you will probably confuse it for a side table, or a housecat. The origami implosion addresses another issue with current efforts like the Hiriko folding city car in that it doesn’t increase the height of the vehicle; the Hiriko heads skyward as its rear portion slides under the front.
We’re guessing about an electric powertrain in the Hyundai—the patent application only says the vehicle “may further include a rear wheel driving unit operating the rear wheels” to slide the floor forward for that shorter wheelbase. We figure that Hyundai has some kind of motor planned, though, and an electric unit makes the most sense. Otherwise, the automaker’s boffins envision a future that puts us somewhere around the Flintstones’ Flintmobile, only half as roomy.